NEW YORK (AP) _ Teen use of Ecstasy has leveled off, but most American youngsters see no great risk in experimenting with the drug, according to a study released Tuesday by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America.
The partnership's annual study found that 45 percent of youths ages 12 to 18 saw a great risk in trying Ecstasy once or twice _ more than the 42 percent who felt that way in last year's survey, but still the minority opinion.
The statistics tell a different story: In 2001, there were 5,542 emergency room episodes related to Ecstasy use, up from just 253 in 1994.
The number of youths using the drug remained stable: 9 percent in this survey, compared with 10 percent a year before. A partnership survey released five months ago found that only 1 percent of American parents believed their child had ever tried Ecstasy.
``Our latest reading of the Ecstasy market offers a more encouraging picture, but does not _ and should not _ suggest that we have turned the corner on this drug,'' said Steve Pasierb, president and chief executive of the partnership.
Other findings of the 15th annual survey:
_ 77 percent of teens believe there is a great risk of Ecstasy addiction, up from 73 percent.
_ 76 percent believe there is a great risk involved in using Ecstasy regularly.
_ 35 percent who attended a ``rave'' had used Ecstasy, compared with 5 percent of all other adolescents.
The survey also found that marijuana remained the most widely used illegal drug, with 40 percent of youths saying they had tried it at some point.
As for legal drugs, alcohol and cigarette use were not as prevalent as they once were. According to the survey, 53 percent reported alcohol use in the last year, down from a high of 63 percent in 1997. And 28 percent reported smoking a cigarette in the last month, down from a high of 42 percent in 1998.
The study was conducted among 7,084 teens nationwide, with a margin of error of plus or minus 1.5 percentage points. Data was collected from April through June of 2002 from questionnaires that students filled out anonymously.
The Partnership for a Drug-Free America, launched in 1987, is a coalition of communications professionals aimed at reducing the demand for illegal drugs.